Lassen Volcanic National Park

This is one of those places that we were not too sure about.  It’s not really on our way and it didn’t sound all that interesting when we read about it.  And, we heard that there was still a ton of snow up there, as hard as that is to believe in July when the temperatures were routinely breaking into triple digits on a daily basis down in California’s Central Valley.

You know we’ve felt that way before and had pleasant surprises and we really didn’t have anything else to do or anywhere else we needed to be, so, off we went from Napa to northeastern California to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park.

This park was established on August 9, 1916, covers 106,000 acres and is one of the least-visited of the western National Parks.  Too bad, as it has so much to offer.  It is one of the few places in the world that one can explore all four types of volcanoes (plug dome, colder cone, shield and composite) in one area and also has many hydrothermal attractions like steam vents, mud pots and hot springs.  Lassen Peak, one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world, last erupted between 1914 and 1921 with the largest eruption taking place on May 22, 1915.  It is the southern-most active volcano in the Cascade Range and represents, along  with Mount St. Helens, the only volcanoes to erupt in the lower-48 in the 20th century.

And, to think, we got to see less than half of it due to the extensive snow cover still there in July!  Amazingly, only a 90 minute drive away it was over 100 degrees in the California central valley near Redding on Wednesday, July 12th when we arrived at Lassen.  It was merely 75 degrees in the park.

The 30 mile Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway meanders through hydrothermal areas and volcanic peaks as it makes it way from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the southern end of the park to the Manzanita Lake Visitor Center at the northern end.  They say this road, or parts of it, are closed in winter.  Well, I guess its still winter here as the middle section of this road is still closed with up to six feet of hard, dense snowpack still to be removed.

Since we were planning to head to the northern California coast from here, we chose the northwestern park entrance at Manzanita Lake for our campground inside the park.  First come, first served, so that is always an adventure.  Beautiful place, just really snug for a rig of our size.

From here, we could drive about 10 miles into the park before we got to the road closed sign.  One of the Rangers told us it would be okay to hike or ride our bikes farther along the park road if we had the inclination.  Evidently, about eight miles of the roadway was cleared but a significant section was still “snowed in” so the road could not yet be opened for vehicle traffic.

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Wow, what a deal!  A clear two lane road with no car traffic…lets go!  Lots of climbing, a great workout and spectacular views.  What more could one ask for?

Later that day we also got in a hike around Manzanita Lake for some more gorgeous scenery.  Well worth the trip.

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